Look Who’s Talking: Patient Personas Can Provide Invaluable Insights

patients, personas, customer service

Consumers are like snowflakes: no two are alike but there are definitely recurring patterns among them. Ascertain the type of person you’re dealing with and you stand a much better chance of transforming them from a curious prospect into a happy client.

One way to do that, says Rachel Honig of Shankman|Honig, is to create customer personas built around their issues, concerns and personalities. “The sooner you can identify patterns, or personas as we like to call them,” she says, “the easier you can adapt and the sooner you will see results.”

To that end, Honig recently wrote a blog post describing various consumer personalities, and while she wasn’t discussing aesthetic consumers per se, her conceptual consumers can provide invaluable insights on gaining and retaining patients. Here are 5 of the most common:

1. Aggressive Alan: Not aggressive as in difficult, but rather, aggressive as in serious, informed and inquisitive. Having decided to pursue gynecomastia surgery, he’s done his homework and he expects prompt, well-informed answers to his questions. If your staff can answer them, he’s a great prospect; if not —or worse, they try to bluff — he’ll quickly go elsewhere.

2. Passive Penny: Alan’s polar opposite, Penny isn’t sure what she wants. Tummy tuck or full-on Mommy makeover? She wants to be guided, which means you and/or your staff have to be prepared to ask a lot of questions to get to the information you need to help her get to the point where she’s confident she’s making the decision that’s right for her.

3. Chatty Cathy: Cathy’s not just seeking a product or service, says Honig. She’s also seeking community. In retail, this can translate into a major time commitment for salespeople but the job is easier online because the community is already there. Doctors who join in — by answering questions, posting before and after photos, etc. — lay the groundwork for building the connections that Cathy requires before she’ll make contact with your office.

4. Enquiring Emily: If Aggressive Alan and Passive Penny had a daughter, she’d probably be Enquiring Emily. She, too, asks a lot of questions, some of which may be off-topic, but if she’s treated well, she’s not only likely to become a loyal customer but also highly likely to tell her friends. It may take time but training staff to be patient with Emily will pay off in the long run.

5. Doubting Daniel: Daniel had Brite Smile or Zoom whitening but was unhappy with the results so you might think he’s not worth the effort. But he can be a good candidate for repeat business if you listen to his complaints and try to make things right. “Under-promise and over-deliver,” says Honig, and you can win Daniel back to the point that he’ll go from antagonist to advocate.

Ultimately, and regardless of the particular persona involved, it all boils down to understanding what drives individual patients and focusing on resolving their needs before you start highlighting your practice and expertise. It’s a dialogue in which it truly pays to listen more, talk less and understand exactly who you’re dealing with.

If the last five years has been about starting a dialogue with customers online, the next 10 will be about really cultivating those relationships, says Honig. In an increasingly commoditized business environment, the winners will be the ones who have built relationships so deep, that their customers never want to leave.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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  • Anonymous

    This is a horrifying article in so many ways. People are regularly being butchered by “board certified plastic surgeons”. The human body isn’t made to be manipulated like this. Liposuction is a particularly dangerous surgery: it can maim you immediately by impaling your organs, muscles, nerves, and so on. Also, you will regrow fat in strange ways because the body defends it’s healthy fat. Additionally, liposuction can contribute to disease processes such as an possible increase in toxic visceral fat, long-term fat mobilization, and an increase in insulin resistance. Silicone implants cause a myriad of troubles, and people are ruined by other invasive cosmetic surgeries, so Chatty Cathy, and Enquiring Emily will end up being Sick Sally and Disfigured Dolly. Passive Penny will be Pain-filled Penny. Surgeons who butcher people have no conscience; no remorse. They only seem to think of themselves and their bottom line.

  • Maureen Ezekwugo

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. The discussion around personas is not intended to condone or promote surgery, it’s just one way to help doctors understand how to connect to their patients in relevant way. In response to your comments directly, while we disagree with blanket statements made about any group of people (including doctors, consumers or patients), we do agree that choosing a doctor for any procedure is an important personal decision which every individual must weigh carefully.

    • Anonymous

      I stand by my comments. A lot more people lose their quality of life and their healthy due to “reconstructive and cosmetic” surgeries than is acknowledged in the pubic sphere… yet. I personally know many people who have been fully disabled from the so called “reconstructive surgeons” in their areas, and the doctors are intent on covering up the harm. I also know several people who are not disabled, but are disfigured. The individual cannot weight the decision clearly since full, transparent short term risks and long-term harm are not disclosed.

  • BuzzKill

    Maureen, I would disagree with your characterization of this article. It is clearly an article that is geared towards doctors not with the goal of creating empathy for clients, but for them to figure out how to *market* procedures towards said clients. In other words, if the doctor can categorize a potential client in one of these ways, then he can use one of the solutions provided and get a ‘repeat customer’. It says it right there. Is that really ethical? Doctors trying to get repeat customers for surgical procedures? You can sugar coat this by discounting the meaning by saying: we do agree that choosing a doctor for any procedure is an important personal decision which every individual must weigh carefully. Apparently though, you (whoever you are talking about when you say “we”) think that this thought process a person goes through can be manipulated by doctors and medical salespeople and this article in fact encourages that.